Invisible Ink: No 179 - G A Henty
Saturday 29 June 2013
You may only be familiar with GA Henty's name if you walk the dog in London's Brompton Cemetery, where he's buried, but in his time he was very well known indeed. A prolific novelist and special correspondent who reported on the appalling conditions of the Crimean War, he wrote 122 novels by my count, and you'll probably find one or two on the shelves of your local Ukip office, assuming anyone there can read.
Henty rose from a privileged background to cover a good number of the 19th century's more interesting wars first-hand, from the Franco-Prussian to the Russo-Turkish. He also witnessed the opening of the Suez Canal. He exemplified the sturdy ethos of the British Empire, and his books are horrible. Most are aimed at children, and involve chaps living in difficult times, facing their problems with firm resolve, pluck, intelligence, honesty and courage. The heroes are also dashing, handsome, and modest, obviously. These tales were set in different eras ranging from Arthurian times to the Crusades, in Carthage, in the American War of Independence, the Spanish Main, the Boer War and in Australia. Some years Henty simply went bananas and got a new book out every two months. Volume after volume poured out of him, adventures set in Egypt, the Punjab or Colorado, during the Restoration or the Reign of Terror, during the Norman Conquest or the Siege of Rhodes, with Wat Tyler or Napoleon. A typical title would be By Sheer Pluck: A Tale of the Ashanti War.
Even in his own lifetime there were those who questioned his xenophobia and endless glorification of imperialism. In True To The Old Flag, set in the American War of Independence, he supported the Loyalists, in No Surrender! he was hostile to the French Revolutionists, in Facing Death: A Tale of the Coal Mines he moans about the strikers. In Freedom's Cause: A Story of Wallace and Bruce he gets a bit muddled up and supports the Scots against the English.
Then there's the racism: “The negroes are just like children, clever up to a certain point, densely stupid beyond. The intelligence of an average negro is about equal to that of a European child of 10 years old.”
What's interesting is how popular Henty has remained within Conservative Christian circles, and on US websites that admire his texts as ideal reading for young lads. His books are highly collectable. In 2002, The Guardian celebrated the centenary of his death.
Arts & Ents blogs
Under The Skin, film review: Scarlett Johansson is full-blooded as femme fatale alien
Doctor Who: Keeley Hawes to star alongside Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman
Boy George: Bad karma
Disney's Frozen is 'very evil' gay propaganda, says Christian pastor
Led Zeppelin return with new 'unheard' song after scouring vaults for unreleased recordings
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
No EU referendum under Labour: Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
Europeans have ‘got whiter’ due to natural selection in past 5,000 years, scientists say
Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
The rise of Ukip: Study warns Labour that Eurosceptic party's electoral base now 'more working class than any of the main parties'
- 1 Tony Benn meets Ali G: Watch Labour veteran burn Sacha Baron Cohen
- 2 Women do experience two different types of orgasm, study reveals
- 3 Tony Benn dead: Veteran Labour politician passes away at 88
- 4 Istanbul protesters take 'Ellen selfie' from the back of a police van
- 5 Gauthier Soho has ranted against 'food blaggers' - so can we really trust online reviews?